Thermal Imaging Inspection 101: How to Conduct One

Thermal Imaging Inspection is an efficient diagnostic method to uncover hidden issues within the infrastructure of homes and buildings. A thermal imager displays a house's hot and cold areas without physical examination. Individuals can easily target the leak spots without breaking the walls, floors, or ceilings.

In this article, let’s dig deeper into thermal imaging for house inspection. We will start with the importance and applications. Then, we will see how to conduct a successful thermal imaging inspection.

Part 1: Importance of Thermal Imaging Inspection

This advanced infrared inspection method has become indispensable in property assessments and maintenance.

Easy and Helpful

Compared to traditional inspections, thermal imaging inspection offers an easier and more comprehensive analysis. Without inspecting the house with naked eyes inch-by-inch, we can easily spot the odd places with a thermal imager.

Thermal Imaging Inspection for Home

Non-invasive

It serves as a proactive measure to enable early detection of potential problems and ultimately contributes to saving costs and enhancing safety standards. Launch a thermal imaging inspection for a home when you suspect a leak happening. No breaking the walls and ceilings. Identify the leak point in a minute.

Part 2: Applications of Thermal Imaging Inspection

Thermal Imaging Inspection finds versatile applications across various domains. It’s an easy and efficient method for homeowners and professionals in real estate, plumbers, and electricians alike.

Building/House Inspections:

For house owners, home inspectors, and real estate professionals, thermal Imaging is popular for building inspections to identify issues and risks. It helps in locating hidden problems within walls, ceilings, and floors. Individuals can have a comprehensive overview of a building's condition with easy operation.

Electrical Systems Inspection:

In the electrical realm, infrared scanning is indispensable for detecting faulty connections, overloaded circuits, and potential fire hazards. Visualizing temperature variations tells electricians the overheated electrical panels, circuits, and components. This helps prevent equipment failures and electrical fires, keeping the home electrical system safe and effective.

Thermal Imaging Inspection for Electrical Panels

Energy Efficiency Assessments:

Thermal Imaging plays a key role in assessing the energy efficiency of buildings.

By revealing thermal irregularities, the inspection pinpoints areas of heat loss or gain. We locate air leaks in doors, windows, and walls without effort. We can fix the leaks easily to improve insulation and enhance cooing or heating system efficiency.

Identifying Water Leaks and Moisture Intrusion:

Infrared inspection can easily display the areas of water leaks and moisture intrusion behind walls and under roofs. Homeowners and inspectors can easily repair the leaks to stop long-term damage, smells, and mold.

Plumbing and HVAC Systems:

For hidden plumbs and HVAC systems, an infrared scan seems to be the perfect option to check leaks, clogs, and inefficiencies. It’s costly to break the walls and floors to run a routine checkup on pipes, ducts, and radiators. An infrared image camera or gun perfectly solves this issue.

Structural Inspections:

Structural engineers use infrared inspection to assess the integrity of buildings and other structures. By detecting variations in thermal patterns, they know which wall is thinner or thicker. This helps identify potential weaknesses in materials or construction.

Thermal Imaging for Building Structural Inspections

Roof Inspections:

In roofing inspections, thermal imaging helps identify leaks, moisture accumulation, and insulation issues. This non-destructive method allows for a thorough examination of the roof's condition without invasive measures.

Part 3: How Thermal Imaging Works

Thermal Imaging operates on the principles of infrared radiation and the detection of temperature variations. The process involves:

  • Objects release radiation
  • A thermal imaging device detects infrared radiation
  • Temperatures display on the screen
  • Analyse the hot and cold spots

Infrared Radiation:

Radiations happen when heat transfers. At room temperature, most of the emission is in the infrared spectrum and this is the reason why we apply infrared imaging instead of other radiations.

All objects with a temperature above zero emit infrared radiation.

Infrared Scan for House

Thermal Imaging Device:

Infrared radiation is not visible to the human eye, but an infrared imager like a thermal camera or gun can capture and interpret these emissions.

Measurement and Infrared Images

The device converts the thermal information into visible images, creating a thermal map of the inspected area. When objects emit different levels of heat, the infrared imager will display them in different colors or shades to tell temperature variations.

In normal cases, warmer areas appear in warmer colors (reds and yellows). Cooler areas are represented in cooler colors (blues and greens).

Tip:

For a better image in a complex environment, some imager devices like the NF-521S support different color modes.

Interpretation and Analysis

Images visually depict temperature variations. By analyzing the patterns, colors, and temperature gradients within the images, inspectors can find underlying issues.

Modern thermal cameras, like the NOYAFA NF-521S, often provide real-time analysis features, enabling instant feedback during inspections.

Check Plumbing with Thermal Imaging

Part 4: Types of Devices Used in Infrared Inspections

For a more accurate inspection, we need help from infrared imagers. Let’s see how many types of devices are available and which one suits the situation best.

Infrared Thermometers

This is the most common and popular type of thermal imager device. It’s compact, portable, and instantly usable. Even beginners can start to use a thermal camera for inspection right after the unboxing. Customers can enjoy it with no complex setup or preparation.

Handheld Thermal Cameras:

It’s similar to the thermometer. But a camera can take pictures and save them. A thermometer displays images only and won’t save the images at all.

Fixed-Mount Thermal Cameras

As its name suggests, we install this type of infrared camera on walls or other specific locations for a long-term non-stop inspection. This is critical for industrial equipment and processes.

Thermal Imaging Drone

We can install infrared cameras on a drone. This aerial inspection method helps check large areas and hard-to-reach locations. Rooftops, solar panels, farms, forests, lakes, and places alike are all supported.

Thermal Imaging Drone

Infrared Windows:

An infrared window is a professional protector to separate transformers and electrical panels from the environment. While inspecting the status of them, operators will not expose themselves to hazards. This is important as there are always accidents and misoperation.

Medical Infrared Thermometers:

We can see this kind of infrared thermometer in hospitals and clinics for fever screening and monitoring body temperatures without physical contact.

Smartphone Thermal Cameras:

This is a kind of smartphone accessory to turn an iPhone or Android into an infrared imager.

Compared to all the other devices, this is most lightweight and on-the-go. However, most of these attachments need the assistance of apps or software to work.

Smartphone Thermal Cameras

Part 5: How to Conduct A Thermal Imaging Inspection

Understand the types of infrared imagers and buy the best fit. We can start to run a thermal imaging inspection.

Preparation:

Before beginning the inspection, ensure that the thermal camera like NOYAFA NF-521S, is calibrated according to manufacturer guidelines.

Test the camera and make sure it’s 100% effective. Get familiar with the buttons and terms.

Environment Assessment:

Environmental conditions matter. Consider factors such as ambient temperature, humidity, and lighting affect thermal imaging results.

See if you need to turn the lights off or on, keep the curtain drawn or not, wipe out the water drops on objects, etc.

Ensure that the inspection area is stable and representative of normal operating conditions.

Safety Precautions:

Safety first!

Spot out the hazards and risks during the inspection process. Cases in points:

  • When dealing with electrical systems, wear gloves and glasses.
  • For a rooftop checkup, clean up the water in your footsteps.
  • Some will trace mice or snakes with a thermal imager, aware of bites and scratches. Wear rubber boots, gloves, and more.

Systematic Scanning:

Launch the infrared camera and scan the area. Move the device slowly in a grid pattern.

Concentrate on critical components.

  • For electrical inspection: panels, circuit breakers, wiring, and connections
  • HVAC & plumbing system: walls, roofs, and windows

 

Data Collection, Analysis, and Report

Save the images if the imager supports or mark down the data manually. Analyze the reasons for temperature differences. Try to consult professionals. At last, repair the faulty spots or report them to the maintenance personnel.

Part 6: Limitations of Thermal Imaging

Using an infrared imager is time-saving. However, the result is not 100% accurate as there are many limitations.

Resolutions and Details:

There are three resolution standards for infrared imagers:

  • Low resolution: 160 x 120 and  lower;
  • Medium resolution: 240 x 180 and lower;
  • High resolution: 320 x 240 and higher.

No matter which resolution you choose, the output image is still blurry. Fine details or small anomalies may go unnoticed, requiring additional tools or methods for closer inspection.

Also, a high-resolution thermal imager is very expensive like a thousand or two bucks.

Temperature and Humidity

Environment affects the accuracy largely. 

For instance, on a sunny and hot day, some objects will be at a higher temperature. This is the same for a cold windy or rainy day, the blowing wind and moisture will take away heat.

Tip:

If you’ve cleaned the objects and there are water drops left on the surface, this may affect the accuracy as well.

Reflective Surfaces

Smooth metal and glass surfaces will reflect sunshine and transfer heat to random places. An infrared imager will directly display these heat points that have zero issues. This will waste our time to examine again.

Limited Penetration

Thermal imaging can only detect surface temperature, making it challenging to identify issues within walls or other obstructed areas. This makes us ignore the fault points.